A year ago I first saw Lauren Singer’s Trash is for Tossers trash jar, holding four years of trash in a little jar. Until then I somehow had not thought about where all my trash went, and that when I threw it out into a bin it was simply being filled on a landfill. There is no away. Especially not with plastic. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still on this earth, as the shortest decomposition rate is somewhere at 250 years. If you want to read more about plastic waste management, just click here.
The amount of waste create daily is astounding, an average of 2kg per person. Rob Greenfield did an extremely interesting experiment where he accepted every piece of ‘trash’ he was offered and wore it for a full month. Look at all that trash!! That is insane!!!
MY ZERO WASTE JOURNEY
Since then I have been trying my best at minimising the amount of rubbish I create.
I have gone No Poo, to eliminate using the plastic and chemicals of shampoo.
I’ve adopted low waste travel methods.
I’ve transitioned to zero waste beauty products, including toothpastes and scrubs from Zero Waste Beauty Australia.
I’ve upcycled old t-shirts into bags.
I’ve even changed my bathroom habits including toilet paper, menstrual products and toothbrushes.
I have even made my own cleaning products!
I have even transitioned to gifting zero waste presents, focusing on experiences rather than material possesions.
However, no matter how much I’ve adjusted individual aspects of my life, I still feel like I have been opening the landfill trash can far too often. Thats why this month, I decided to challenge myself and see if I could keep a trash jar. I know that many people including have kept their trash jars for years, I thought a smaller goal could be much more achievable.
WHAT IS IN MY TRASH JAR?
So lets have a look at what’s in my jar. I set myself a few restraints : I would place all the pieces of landfillable material in the trash jar. If I utilized something that could be recycled (glass bottles from beer etc), or material that could be (safely) burned, like paper (which we use as kindling for our fire place). I would place it into my trash jar. Starting November 18-December 18th. During this time, I was in a relatively new environment, staying at Mazi Farm in greece, therefore it would be an interesting first try.
Immedietaly, I was heart broken because we needed to use plastic bottles to get fresh potable water. The tap water and the local well was undrinkable and we were waiting for the delivery of a filter. As you know from my time in Cambodia, there we also had to rely on plastic bottles and were very excited to get a ceramic filter.
We did manage to minimize the amount of plastic water bottles we used by drinking more beer and tea, as well as refilling the water bottles at our neighbors house. Check out a day on Mazi Farm. So in one month, we used 6 water bottles!
Lentil & Rice Packaging
In small towns in Greece there are very limited options in the shops, and while we primarily focused on buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers, we still needed to buy rice, lentils and staples. Until we found a lovely little shop in ____, we had to stick with buying lentils and rice in plastic bags. Everything is packaged locally and the bag itself is just a simple bag with no coloring or anything else. Does that make it any better? I don’t know.
Due to the problem of plastic bottles, I ended up drinking a lot more tea than usual. Around a litre a day. This tea is wonderful, locally grown and absolutely delicious. While eating and drinking locally is vital in decreasing your carbon footprint, the contrast of having it packaged in plastic is a struggle.
Unfortunately, many bales of hay are tied together with plastic ropes, meaning when I was taking them off to act as mulch on Mazi Farm, I could not dispose of them. I only kept a few for the trash jar, as those were the ones I personally found while sorting through olive tree leaves from the compost. It would be really cool if these types of ropes could be replaced by something like recycling plastic bottles.
On the few days I did not manage to cook dinner the night before, we would occasionally get a delivery of delicious food right to the farm. Thanks Christine! One of the foods popping out of this care hamper was a delicious looking granola bar. Made from local ingredients and packaged right in the south of Evia. It was impossible to resist. Alas, there was another piece of plastic adding to my jar.
While majority of fruits and vegetables available in Greece as package free and sticker free, occasionally a banana from Guatemala will sneak into the mix. The guilt of peeling off the plastic sticker and knowing how far this poor banana travelled, and the carbon footprint it therefore had, was only elevated by the deliciousness. The distance food travels significantly impacts its environmentally friendliness, and there is an awesome website where you can find exactly what kind of miles your food has done!
Unsure of where I aquired this bad boy this month, but cling wrap or film is one of the hardest things I have found to eliminate. It always seems to be present in kitchen drawers, and while I often leave my food uncovered, occasionally the cling film provides a mess free option for packaging. In my how to travel zero waste on a plane, I did experiment with just wrapping sandwiches in little pieces of cloth, and I must say. It worked pretty well!
While it has been over a year since I bought any sort of packaged snack, there was a time we were waiting for the ferry and were simply too hungry to pass up the opportunity for a 1 euro packet of cashew nuts. There are actually considerations out there to start taxing single use packaging, as in the UK, 5p price on single use plastic bags resulted in an 85% decrease in just six months!
Overall, I feel like I could have done a lot better this month, and next month I am going to have to restart this challenge as my small little jar is already full. One day, I will be able to combine several months into it, then hopefully even a year and eventually several years! Unfortunately, my constant moving, my hectic life means I am never settled in one place therefore its hard to get into some sort of routine. Routines are the friends of plastic free living, while travel definitely makes it hard and requires much more planning and foresight. Something I am trying to gain.